She grips me tight and whispers, “Stay! I like you so much.” I give her one last kiss and wriggle free from her tired arms. When she catches me peeking back for a final glance before I flick the light out, she begs again, “Stay!”
Annie is learning to go to bed on her own. I’m learning to let her. That sweet embrace and warm invitation to sit there by her through the night are hard to turn down. Besides, she likes me so much!
Especially as the days wane to our hospital report date, on July 28, I want to stay in these moments forever. My final looks are getting longer. I study every breath, trying to seal every touch in my mind for the days ahead.
Audrey pops out of her room early on a weekday morning. She carefully laid out three outfit options. Dressed in one, she already had her bow clipped in. “I did it all myself, Momma! Even my bow, see?” I note how pretty she looks from the bow, but mostly the glisten of pride in her eyes. I tuck the sparkle away for another day soon when her brightness might be hidden.
I creak the backdoor open to announce dinner’s readiness. I decide instead to watch Matt sweep the girls up higher higher, Daddy, in their swings. He sends them flying to squeal and kick in full underdog delight. So what if we have to enjoy a cold chicken dinner on the deck as audience to a live fishing show taught by my 5- and 3-year-old fishing pros who “aren’t hungry yet.”
The 30-day countdown is really getting to me. “Stay. I like you so much!” I plead with every normal moment. “Stay, let me soak you up a little longer so that my memory will never let you go.”
Stay, routine tuck ins.
Stay, sparkling eyes.
Stay, giggling girls and swinging Daddy.
Stay, poolside picnics.
This morning Annie informed me that when she gets older, older and bigger, bigger she’s getting a cat. And when she’s a mom with that cat, she’ll name him Gilbert. Stay dreaming, brave girl.
As I listened to her future plans, knowing the statistics that they’ll ever come true, I drowned in the what ifs. Literally gasping for short breaths underneath the tightness of my chest, I cried for time to stop. For this moment to stay.
A verse I’ve been meditating on lately came to mind: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Stay, mind, on the nearness of God’s presence. Stay, heart, in the hope of eternity. Stay, faith, in the strong anchor of our good God.